Trigger warning: bipolar, theme of suicide
“Hypothesis: I will not go crazy because I am not truly insane. Just a spectacular fuck up,” is the bitterly hopeful premise of Naadeyah Haseeb’s Manic Depressive Dream Girl.
This unconventional chapbook, in which the boy and girl are alternately comfortable and wild, explores the depth a relationship can develop when one branches out from one’s usual type. The couple in this book beautifully and tragically navigates experiences that they maybe need but are not sure they want to have.
The girl says, “I’ve become convinced that my boyfriend likes having a bipolar girlfriend. Maybe it’s exotic to him like my brown skin and big hair and the fact that I’m a scientist.” The intersection of race, gender, and mental health issues with this blunt and breezy tone shows the terrifying normalcy of these thoughts.
The boy and girl find some degree of happiness in cliché, but Haseeb wastes no opportunity to break down several stereotypes at once. The girl says, “I’ve become convinced that my boyfriend likes having a bipolar girlfriend. Maybe it’s exotic to him like my brown skin and big hair and the fact that I’m a scientist.” The intersection of race, gender, and mental health issues with this blunt and breezy tone shows the terrifying normalcy of these thoughts. Haseeb manages this with sensitivity. It is hard not to be able to see yourself somewhere in all of this, and it’s also hard not to acknowledge the privileges and differences, the scenarios of how life would be different if just one thing were changed.
Haseeb’s characters are multifaceted enough to contain whole universes inside them – universes that expand to overlap with each other in indecipherable but natural ways. None of this writing strays from addressing the complexity of life. Humanity means being more than mental illness and chemicals, the cocaine that the girl steals from her college’s pharmacology lab. It means being funny, believing in something like life in stars and explosions. Being someone difficult to understand in an intriguing way that makes others not want to give up trying, being too much of someone for the world and living in it anyway.
Being someone difficult to understand in an intriguing way that makes others not want to give up trying, being too much of someone for the world and living in it anyway.
The girl blurs the line between personal interest and obsession in her preoccupation with death and mental illness. Her musings are sure to tug heartstrings as she discusses how she used to pull out her hair, try to visit the afterlife, and try to figure out where she should be or where she deserves to be. With a relatability that is both humorous and serious, the girl struggles to determine the meaning of safety and stability inside and outside of her body.
The girl wears the costume of a student, reliant on coffee and carrying more than she can handle. Older professionals don’t see through it and other students just think it’s normal, which is bruising in its poignant truth about mental health in educational institutions. Millenials seem somehow both susceptible and immune to suffering. The ebb and flow in this book is a testament to this dangerous reality, in which often the only way to deal with stress is with flippancy – or, as the girl sometimes thinks, to believe that life is God’s experiment.
The theme of attempted balance prevails, exploring the individual weights and effects of trauma. The potential benefit of a silence in the noise.
The trials of life continue as the boy deals with death in his own way, not leaving his bed, feeling guilty for going through so little in comparison to the girl and not being there for her enough. The theme of attempted balance prevails, exploring the individual weights and effects of trauma. The potential benefit of a silence in the noise. What is enough, what would have been too much. The boy and girl grow separately and together, make mistakes and memories together – including, but not limited to, consequences of a love they didn’t expect but prove to be surprisingly ready for.
“Sometimes I wonder if I wanted to kill myself because I’m afraid to have anyone I love die before me.” This final realization about finality is memorable long after the book closes. There are unresolved issues in both of the characters, as their story ends with the hint of a new beginning, but they have evolved, improved, and incorporated various parts of themselves in an emotional cycle that is chaotic and resounding.
Manic Depressive Dream Girl offers reassurance that there is strength in fluctuation, and in finally finding consistency with someone else, if not within oneself. Changing alongside someone is often a little less scary than changing alone.
Keep up with Haseeb’s own developments on Twitter @sothisisnaddy or her website, http://naadeyahhaseeb.com.
(Maudlin House Press, Fiction, Paperback, Oct. 2015)
BETHANY MARY is a meditative tea snob studying gerontology in Minnesota. She was once the poetry editor of Green Blotter Literary Magazine and now reads submissions for Spark: A Creative Anthology and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. As an asexual advocate for a sexual assault center and blogger for Resources for Ace Survivors, she focuses on boundaries and mental health in her own writing. Some of her work is out in the world, and she rants on Twitter @bethanylmary.